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Self Improvement

Finding Our Way On Unstable Ground

The month the Covid-19 pandemic hit the US, I was in bed recovering from long-overdue ankle surgery, a reconstruction necessitated by years of mismanaged sports injuries, and a pervasive issue of uneven surfaces surrounding me at all times. Later that same month, my dog died. The next, my best friend moved to another country. 

After fantasizing briefly about transforming my grief into a semi-successful country music career, I snapped back to the reality of my bedroom. Between the piles of unfolded laundry, dying sympathy flowers, and various pieces of rehabilitative equipment, there was a space that I didn’t quite know how to fill.

The doctor suggested I stand, of course, because if there’s one thing that makes you weaker it’s inaction. Then again, do too much and you might set yourself back to a place even more dire than where you began. This, I’ve come to realize, is the delicate balance of life. In order to strengthen ourselves, we must push through fear and uncertainty, and discomfort. But in order to push through fear and uncertainty and discomfort, we must first find strength.

The challenge of life, it would seem, is that we must enter into our fears, with all of our instability and insecurity intact, and take those first cautious steps, before we even know if we have the strength to hold ourselves.

2020 was a year designed to test the boundaries of our discomfort, to force us deeper into our fears, to call on our ability to keep taking steps, even when we had no clue where our feet would land. Whether we were out of work or unexpectedly homeschooling, realizing we were shit at making bread or mourning the death of our dogs / friendships / once-youthful joints — 2020 was here to challenge us.

It’s been about nine months since the US entered lockdown (though you can feel free to swap that nine out for any relevant number until the world returns to normal). Nine months of voids and uncertainty and unfulfilled needs. Nine months of gaining insights into who we are and forgetting who we used to be.

In mid-March, I did not have the wherewithal to figure out how to fill the void around me. 

Just as I was supposed to be out in the world, standing firmly on my own two feet again, the world seemed to be crashing down around me.

So many of us have struggled to find our footing over the past nine months…so many of us left endeavoring to stand on unstable ground. It’s said the next crisis to emerge after the covid-19 pandemic will be one of collective trauma and it is difficult to imagine such a scenario being avoidable.

In a time when it’s hard to know what tomorrow may hold, it can be difficult to imagine our futures…difficult to imagine solutions to new and unexpected problems. But maybe having all the solutions isn’t the answer. Maybe our strength is in recognizing our weaknesses and committing to keeping standing up anyway. Maybe the answer to filling the void is in our ability to withstand the mayhem around us by imagining some future version of ourselves existing in the very strength we’re trying to find. Maybe we don’t have to know how this version of ourselves came to be, or what steps took them from point A to point B…we just have to know that there is some version of life out there that feels good..a version where we are happy and whole, and strong, even if just for a bit.

In my experience, depression is essentially the antithesis of this belief…the certainty that we will, in fact, never encompass any of the great qualities we once imagined for ourselves…the understanding that all those good feelings that seem to exist around and within everyone else, are simply not available to us any longer. The acceptance that this emptiness is all we’ll ever know.

But what if we could imagine some world where this wasn’t true. What if we could convince ourselves, even if we have to lie a little bit, that we are not total shit. (Because, of course, we are not total shit, but that doesn’t stop us from believing we are.) What if we could imagine, then, in some alternate universe, that we are, in fact, successful and capable and loved. Maybe if we can just keep some glimmer of hope that this version of our life exists, maybe that’s enough.

The truth of the matter is: the ground is always uneven. Sometimes our dogs die. Sometimes our friends leave. Sometimes we are struggling to survive in the midst of a global pandemic. We lose our jobs, and occasionally our minds, and (almost religiously) our sense of direction…Our hands shake and our voices and knees, and that is ok. The goal is not to stand with strength and clarity in the face of adversity or to always know exactly what to do next. The goal is simply to stand, even when we’re shaking, even when we’re scared, even when we can’t remember what lead us here in the first place. The goal is not to be strong when we feel like being weak, it’s just to keep moving until we land somewhere a bit softer.

It is possible that I’ve watched one too many uplifting holiday movies this year, possible that I’m swept up in the spirit of things, but maybe we can agree, that they may be on to something here. Maybe, instead of stumbling through as the world crashes around us, set on rebuilding all that is broken around and within us…maybe all we have to do is imagine a world where no matter what happens, we’re still standing…maybe we just have to believe.

If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/will-the-fearless-women-please-stand-up/

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by amandasheeren

Amanda is a writer, graphic designer and co-founder of mental health initiative If Lost Start Here: A Guide For The Anxious, The Curious, the Lost.


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